The Dirty Little Secret of Entrepreneurship

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket magazine week of April 8th)

The dirty little secret that keeps many from entering the world of entrepreneurship or what sends them back running looking for a “job” is this. “There’s no one else to blame for their failures or success but themselves.”

There was a time I would have argued against that statement. Personally I would have debated against it using more or less the same thoughts many of you reading this are currently thinking. But the more I have researched, the more I find myself standing on firmer ground.

Many ventured into the world of self-employment (for this discussion I’m speaking of owning your business) for different reasons, but for brevity I’ll contend with what I believe are the two dominant reasons for most. Either they felt hindered by their boss or company and want freedom from all that entails, or they felt unfairly compensated in comparison to how much revenue they were either generating or saving their employer. What happens next is what separates the true desire for self-direction and everyone else.

Making the break to go out on your own has all the euphoric trappings found in many business books. Some call them “How to Guides” I call them “Romance Novels.” Just as love stories are filled with a cacophony of fresh flowers, walking on clouds, and love forever after, most business books paint the world of entrepreneurship as if any haze along the path should be viewed as a cloud of perfume because once through it, you’ll come out smelling sweeter on the other side. For many whom made this jump, perfume is not the first scent that comes to mind.

If you listen carefully to those struggling with being on their own, you can distinguish the ones whom truly have the greatest chance of success from the rest in how they describe their challenges. The ones that “get it” will describe their obstacles of not finding or reaching a solution to a dilemma in terms of “yet.” You’ll hear “I just can’t seem to break through this wall, maybe I’m not looking at it properly or I’m doing something wrong, but I’ll find a way some how.” The ones in love with the “idea” of self-direction tend to say things like: “My old boss or company is competing unfairly against me. They just want me to fail so they can laugh.” Or you might hear: “They must have called my old contacts and bad mouthed me, why else would I be having a hard time?” I could list hundreds of these but I believe you get the point. One is looking at obstacles and looking for ways to work through them. The other is lamenting that there shouldn’t be obstacles.

When you’re working for someone else it’s easy if the sale or something else doesn’t get made or done. You always have the excuse book to pull out so anyone within earshot can hear and agree with you when you start reciting lines from the “Blame it on X” reference guide. “Our prices are too high! The credit department won’t give them the proper terms! I had to go to some dumb meeting and couldn’t follow-up!”  And on, and on.

Once you’re on your own things like competition, being shut out, inability to get proper pricing, and alike never leave you. Actually they may get more intense. What makes this challenge worth the price of achievement and so invigorating is once you’ve made the break, it’s not what you get to keep, but what you get to leave behind.

That little book of excuses.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr